Have you ever slipped off your shoes at the end of a long day and caught a whiff of an unpleasant odor? That smell likely signals fungal overgrowth on your feet. Foot fungus thrives in the warm, dark confines of shoes and socks, producing smelly byproducts in the process.
If you’re tired of stinky feet, rest assured you can take action to curb fungal growth and its noxious odors. With a combination of topical antifungals, keeping feet clean and dry, getting rid of infected shoes and socks, and using preventative foot hygiene, you can conquer stinky foot fungus for good.
Diagnose the Problem
To fix the issue, you first need to understand what type of fungus may be plaguing your feet. The three most common culprits of foot odor are:
- Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis): This fungal infection thrives in damp environments like pools, showers, and sweaty shoes. It usually starts between the toes then spreads to the bottom and sides of the foot. Signs include scaly, peeling skin; redness; swelling; blisters; and itchiness.
- Toenail fungus (onychomycosis): A fungal invasion of the toenails, most recognizable by thickened, discolored nails. The dark, damp area under the nail harbors the infection, producing a bad smell.
- Yeast infections: Candida yeast naturally occurs on skin but sometimes overgrows on damp feet. This infection causes a red, itchy rash and gives off a distinct yeasty odor.
Once you identify the type of infection, you can choose targeted antifungal treatments to defeat it.
Apply Medicated Antifungal Creams
Over-the-counter antifungal ointments, sprays, powders and creams are widely available and help curb fungal foot infections that cause odors. Look for products containing active ingredients like miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate. For more stubborn infections, prescription-strength solutions may be necessary.
When applying topical treatments, thoroughly wash and dry your feet first. Use the creams or sprays as directed, usually twice daily, until several weeks after symptoms resolve. Make sure to get in between toes and under nails. Consistency is key for completely eliminating infections. Combining medicated foot soaks with topical applications helps the antifungals penetrate deeper as well.
Keep Feet Clean and Dry
Fungi flourish in damp, dirty environments. So keeping your feet clean and dry is imperative to prevent odors. Here are some tips:
- Wash your feet daily with antibacterial soap, scrubbing between toes
- Always dry feet thoroughly after bathing, especially between the toes
- Allow shoes an opportunity to air out and dry between wears
- Alternate pairs of shoes day to day so each can dry out
- Apply antifungal or antibacterial foot powder inside shoes
- Wear moisture-wicking socks to soak up sweat
- Go barefoot when possible to give feet a breather
Replace Infected Shoes and Socks
If foot fungus smells persist despite medication and foot hygiene, contamination may linger in your shoes and socks. These items come into frequent contact with feet so can harbor fungus easily.
Throw out any socks with holes, frayed fabric or visible stains. Also cycle out overly worn shoes that contour to your foot shape. These offer optimal fungal breeding grounds.
Disinfect washable shoes when possible by removing inserts and laces then washing with hot water mixed with tea tree oil or an antifungal solution. White vinegar also kills fungi and foot odors without harsh chemicals. Place dried shoes in sealable bags in sunlight which naturally sanitizes.
For non-washable shoes, insert ultraviolet shoe sanitizers which kill bacteria and spores. Or place crumpled newspapers inside to absorb moisture and odors overnight. Renew paper daily.
Practice Preventative Foot Hygiene
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to stinky foot fungus. Adopt these habits below to minimize odds of recurring infections:
- Clean feet thoroughly when bathing
- Apply antifungal foot powder in shoes and socks
- Wear clean, breathable socks changed daily
- Alternate pairs of shoes day-to-day
- Disinfect inner soles and air out shoes regularly
- Dry feet thoroughly after swimming or sweating
- Get pedicures to remove built-up dead skin on feet
- Clip toenails straight across to avoid ingrown nails
- Treat small cuts immediately to avoid infection
With diligence using medicated treatment, moisture control, replacing worn items, and preventative care, you can get rid of foot fungus for good. Don’t resign yourself to stinky feet. A little consistency goes a long way toward fresh, healthy, odor-free feet. The effort is well worth leaving foot fungus and its smell behind you for good.